22 March 2013


The Rt Revd Graeme Knowles writes:

IT CAME as no surprise that, at the Ven. Norman Crowder's funeral in Salisbury Cathedral, his son, Richard, read from T. S. Eliot. Eliot, together with the game of cricket, was a personal passion for Norman. As Bishop David Stancliffe said in his sermon at the funeral, "Rarely did a sermon at Portsmouth Cathedral fail to include a quotation from Eliot's Four Quartets."

Norman Harry Crowder was born in Nottingham, and educated locally, before going up to St John's College, Cambridge, to read classics. After training at Westcott House, and under the influence of Bishop Frank Barry, Norman returned to the diocese of Southwell to serve his title. From 1955 until 1959, he was domestic chaplain to Launcelot Fleming, then Bishop of Portsmouth. His years at Canford School followed, first as assistant chaplain, then as chaplain. It was while he was at Canford that he met and married Pauleen.

Of his time at Canford, reflecting on the chaplain's task of holding a balance between the desire for change and the status quo, he wrote that he had pursued "innovation without losing sight of the one eternal changelessness that mankind has found and woven into his liturgies". The Eliot passage read at his funeral ("At Graduation 1905") contained the lines: "And let thy motto be, proud and serene, Still as the years pass by, the word Progress". Norman was always seeking: new ideas; new concepts; new friends. Life was never closed for him: there was always the expectation of new horizons.

After Canford, in 1972, Norman and Pauleen moved back to the diocese of Portsmouth, where Norman served as Vicar of St John's, Oakfield, on the Isle of Wight. In 1975, at the invitation of Bishop Ronald Gordon, he became Residentiary Canon, and Director of Education. There followed ten years in which Norman was part of an inspiring team at Portsmouth Cathedral, led from 1982 by David Stancliffe. His work in and around the diocese, in its many church schools, brought a dimension to cathedral life which was integral to the vision for a new way of being "cathedral" that was being worked out and developed.

It seemed a natural progression that Norman should succeed the Ven. Ronald Scruby as Archdeacon of Portsmouth. The archdeaconry, which covered the UPA parishes of Portsea as well as the lush villages of the Meon Valley, was demanding. Norman brought to the task humour and rigour. A note from him, written in his small, neat, and highly characteristic handwriting, was never ambiguous. His visitation charges were a model of that balance between policeman and pastor which is the archdeacon's vocation.

Retirement to Salisbury brought Norman back to chaplaincy and cricket, at the Cathedral School, underlining the intensely pastoral nature of his calling as a priest.

Printed on the inside cover of the order of service for his funeral were the words from the 1662 Ordinal: ". . . have always therefore printed in your remembrance how great a treasure is committed to your charge." Norman never forgot how great the treasure was, and he was a faithful watchman, messenger, and steward, as he was ordained to be.

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